Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Plan B: the Plan A we had before the latest Plan A

The AP is reporting that “U.S. military officials are narrowing the range of Iraq strategy options and appear to be focusing on reducing the U.S. combat role in 2008 while increasing training of Iraqi forces,” and likening this “strategy” to recommendations made in the Iraq Study Group Report almost a year ago.

Beyond the quite prevalent belief that things have devolved in Iraq to such an extent as to render the ISG recommendations irrelevant, the AP fails to remark upon the strange similarity this new “strategy option” bears to the prior ones.

Here’s Bush court scribe Michael Gordon writing last summer in the New York Times:

U.S. General in Iraq Outlines Troop Cuts

WASHINGTON, June 24 [2006] — The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.

. . . .

Proponents of General Casey's approach described it as a carefully synchronized plan to turn over authority for security to the new Iraqi government. The administration has repeatedly said that American troops will begin to stand down as Iraqi forces stand up and begin to assert control.

. . . .

The reduction in American combat brigades would have an importance beyond troop numbers. The strategy is to gradually shift the responsibility for fighting the insurgency to the new Iraqi military and to encourage the Iraqi forces to secure the nation's territory. Arranging for the Iraqis to take on an increasing combat role is the key to reducing the American military presence in Iraq.

The other point that the AP can’t seem to work into the story: come April of 2008, the US will have to reduce the number of troops deployed in Iraq. Several brigades’ already extended tours of duty will come to a close, and we just don’t have any fresh brigades left to replace them.

I don’t know. . . is it a “strategy” if you have no other choice?

Let’s see, what else? The AP also seems to have picked up on this idea that the 2007 Bush splurge is making “progress,” and we should just give it a little more time. (Once known as a “Friedman Unit,” this has lately become known as the Pollack-O’Hanlon foil. But the administration doesn’t need a couple of pseudo liberal shills to grant permission for it to use the word “progress”—as far as Bush is concerned, we’ve had four-and-a-quarter years of “progress.”) Of course, the AP, like all those that pick up this trope, fails to cite any actual numbers, instead relying on the odd anecdotal quote. The actual numbers? Iraqi civilian deaths nationwide are up; US military deaths are at an all-time high.

Oh, and, then there’s the whole timing thing. . . the AP doesn’t seem to have enough fingers to count out the months, but my back of the envelope calculation says that “end of summer” 2008 is, uh, lemme see, yeah, about six or seven weeks before election day. Huh, how do you like that?

Finally, neither the AP, nor the unnamed military insider that was the germ of this piece, seem to be able to tell us just which Iraqi forces they plan to focus on training. Is it the SCIRI militia we have our eyes on? Maybe it’s the Mehdi Army, or maybe it’s those Al Qaeda in Anbar we are so proud of arming these days. . . .

Of course, the biggest problem that no one can quite seem to grasp anymore is that the current “strategy”—the surge—is not a strategy at all. Not in and of itself. I mean, OK, we’ve now surged, hoo-rah! No, the strategy was to surge in order to create some “breathing space” for the Iraqi government to iron out its factional problems and pass that oil law that our president and his oil company cronies are so excited about. You can argue all September long about how this neighborhood or that province is safer, but you can’t argue that the “strategy” has worked. Why? Because the Iraqi government is on the verge of collapse. . . and they all left for recess without doing much of anything regarding unity or oil wealth. . . that’s why.

Yup, it’s hard to stand down when you are busy propping up a “government” that’s in freefall.

So, what letter are we really on? Does the Bush Administration even know its own ABC’s?

(cross-posted on Daily Kos)

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